VAIL - An extra weekend of skiing at Vail is a treat. But the bonus weekend has created some new, although welcomed, challenges for local businesses.
A lot of businesses shut down for a few weeks after the lifts close, so people coming from out of town to ski will find a number of "closed" signs when they arrive this weekend.
"My people are all gone fishing," Billy's Island Grill owner Bill Suarez said in a voicemail message. "It ought to be good for those businesses staying open, but we're closed."
A lot of Vail and Vail-area businesses do stay open after the lifts close, and those businesses are looking forward to an extra ski weekend. Still, there are a lot of question marks.
"We're not sure what to expect," Sweet Basil dining room manager Sam Ferraro said, adding that he and the restaurant's chef have been having detailed discussions about staffing and what to order for the kitchen.
Staffing could be a bit tricky, Ferraro said.
"We have a handful of people who have already left town," he said.
Still, the restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner through the weekend, and will be running specials.
LaTour in Vail Village also stays open through most of the off-season, although it will be closed for a while in May. Co-owner Lourdes Ferzacca said that restaurant has a pretty stable staff, but some people have already headed out for their post-season vacations.
"We'll bring people in," Ferzacca said. "But everybody needs to pull together for the weekend."
The same is true at Venture Sports in Avon, which will have ski rentals available through the weekend.
"We're 90 percent a bike shop right now," said Dave Taylor of Venture Sports, adding that staying in the rental business for an extra weekend is largely just a matter of not storing this season's gear just yet.
Like other businesses, the biggest potential problem for Taylor this weekend is labor.
"This time of year is usually very quiet," Taylor said. "But it's exciting, and not that difficult to do."
Letting people know you're open can be a challenge, though.
Anne Lynch of The Sebastian hotel said the hotel sent blast e-mails to former guests on the Front Range and within about a 400-mile drive.
"We've got e-mails out, so we'll see what happens,"
To sweeten the deal, Lynch said the hotel is reprising its 50th anniversary special.
Like other businesses in this story, the Sebastian was already open through the off-season, and Lynch said the biggest issue could be housekeeping. Still, she said, the hotel was already about 40 percent full this weekend thanks to group business.
But the question for every open business this weekend is simple: How many people are going to show up?
While other resorts will re-open with late-season snow from time to time, it hardly happens at Vail. Vail Resorts' official estimate is that Vail hasn't re-opened since the end of the 1986-87 season.
"It hasn't happened in the 23 years I've been here," Venture Sports owner Mike Brumbaugh said.
There will be locals on the hill, of course. Ferraro said a couple of people in Sweet Basil's kitchen are "on fire" to get in a few more runs. But how many people will travel, even from the Front Range?
Lynch said she thinks there might be a good potential market for Front Rangers this weekend, mainly because of the weather.
This week's storms hit the Front Range just as hard, or harder, than the mountains, and the weekend forecast for Denver has a chance of rain and high temperatures in just the 50s.
"People won't be golfing," Lynch said. "Maybe they'll want to go skiing one more time."
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.